In a marathon session lasting four hours and at times fraught with tension, members of the Zoning Board of Appeals granted developer Amy Coffey the special permit she has sought for months to demolish an existing house at #19 Anthony road and to construct a larger home on a non-conforming lot. ZBA members Carol Amick, Angelo Colasante, Jeff Dearing, and Chair Todd Crowley voted in favor of approval, with member Robert Kalantari opposed.
Before the motion to approve, which occurred at about 10:30 pm, the Board wrestled with the essential language from section 7.1.2 of the Zoning bylaw: “A nonconforming structure or use may be changed, extended or altered, provided that in each case the Board grants a Special Permit and concludes that such change, extension or alteration is in harmony with the purpose and intent of this Bylaw and will not be substantially more detrimental or injurious to the neighborhood in which it is to take place than the existing nonconforming structure or use.“ The key words here are “detrimental or injurious” to the neighborhood.
Attorney Pam Brown, representing developer Coffey, held firmly to the position that it was not feasible for Coffey to reduce the size of the home, which has been the main point of contention in all previous public hearings.
Dearing, an architect and a 21 year resident of Hancock Street, argued strongly that the home as proposed was entirely in keeping with the neighborhood. He presented an extensive review of the homes on Anthony Road, as derived from Bedford Property Finder, available on the Town web site, showing changes from 2003 to today. Two homes were tear-downs before the ZBA had to pass on these actions. By 2015 the neighborhood had substantially changed, with five teardowns replaced by larger homes and three homes enlarged with additions. Eight of the 16 homes have increased in size. Most of the changes have taken place in the past five to seven years. “This is a neighborhood in transition,” Dearing said.
Kalantari stuck firmly to his position during the entire discussion that the home was too big for the narrow lot and too large for the neighborhood. He objected strenuously to the “massing” of the new home and its impact on the property next door. Amick also felt that the square footage exceeded that of most homes on the street but in a dramatic shift of opinion late in the evening, she changed her position and voted in favor. Her reasoning was that she did not want to put the Town through a possible lawsuit, given the fiscal uncertainty caused by the pandemic and the possibility that the schools might need additional funding.
Colasante based his vote on the reasoning that the home was not substantially detrimental to the neighborhood and was in keeping with the intent of the bylaw. He noted the new home will provide substantial improvement by addressing drainage issues in the backyard, which have been of concern to the neighbors. Crowley said the home meets all setbacks.
The project has a lengthy history. Attorney Brown has come before the Board four times and Coffey has revised the plan twice. The first proposal featured a home of more than 4000 sq ft but the revisions brought the size down to 3543 sq. ft. and the height to 33 feet. Public hearings at several meetings gave abutters and neighbors the opportunity to voice both objections and support. Some of the same homeowners were present on Thursday night to voice their opinions and two letters were read into the record.
There is a 21 day appeal period and the Board has 14 days to write the decision.